Poll chief and poll commissioner are ninongs
Just My Opinion
By Raïssa Robles
After nearly nine years in jail while on trial for mass slaughter, former Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan gave his daughter’s hand in marriage in a glittering ceremony studded with top Philippine officials.
Sixty of them were not merely guests at the wedding held at Manila’s Hotel Sofitel last Tuesday. They were principal wedding sponsors or – in Filipino, they were ninongs and ninangs.
In the Catholic religion, ninongs and ninangs are meant to guide and help a newly-married couple build a family life together.
In Philippine politics, the tradition has been warped into something else. Ninongs and ninangs extend political connections beyond family.
This is great for dynasty building and re-election.
This is downright terrible for democracy.
The list of “Principal Sponsors” in the wedding of Zaldy Ampatuan’s daughter to the son of a town vice mayor shows just how cynical our officials and politicians are.
The ninongs and ninangs do not mind being associated with the worst crime of political violence in our history. This is why I call the list of wedding sponsors the “horror list”.
It’s nothing to them, that this man they are honoring, by becoming principal sponsors at his daughter’s wedding, still stands accused of plotting a mass murder.
Unless, they think Zaldy Ampatuan is not guilty. If they think that, they should say so out loud and let the electorate judge them this May.
Among the list of ninangs is President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, Davao City mayor Sara.
I tweeted to Mayor Sara this afternoon to ask why she was a ninang. No reply yet.
Incidentally, I wrote a separate piece on this for South China Morning Post. The digital version is entitled:
Victims’ families ‘exploding with rage’ after accused mastermind of Philippine massacre leaves jail to attend his daughter’s wedding
In 2009, the Maguindanao massacre claimed the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists, making it the deadliest attack on members of the media anywhere in the world
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 7:30pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 9:10pm
Relatives of 32 murdered journalists expressed outrage on Thursday after Zaldy Ampatuan, a prime suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, briefly left prison to attend his daughter’s wedding.
“Our hearts are bleeding profusely and our feelings are exploding with rage by the court’s careless neglect of our feelings,” the relatives said in a statement. “For nearly nine years, [we] have been grieving over the brutal slaying of our spouses, children, siblings and relatives.”
They called Ampatuan’s three-hour pass from jail on Tuesday “an unforgivable insult”. They were not told of the request but had they known, they “would have vigorously opposed it”.
The 2009 massacre claimed the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists, making it the deadliest attack on members of the media anywhere in the world. Some were shot in their genitals before being buried in a hilltop grave that was dug with a mechanical excavator.
The massacre shocked the world and reinforced perceptions of a culture of impunity in the Philippines. In 2015, the Philippine police force sacked 21 officers for failing to prevent the massacre.
The murders were provoked by a quarrel between two political clans allied with then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who used local forces as a buffer against Muslim insurgents. Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Snr wanted his son, Andal Jnr, to succeed him but Esmail Mangudadatu decided to run for governor.
Esmail’s wife and relatives, along with lawyers and journalists, were on their way to file Esmail’s certificate of candidacy when they were ambushed and murdered, reportedly by Andal Jnr, civilian militia and members of the clan’s private army. Zaldy Ampatuan, older brother of Andal Jnr, was also accused of planning the massacre.
According to Nena Santos, a lawyer for 25 members of the Mangudadatu family, at least two witnesses, including a servant in the Ampatuan household, have testified in court that Zaldy Ampatuan was “part of the planning”.
Santos said Zaldy was being charged as “the principal by inducement” because the former governor of the Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Region was present during the three stages of planning of the massacre.
Since the charge is “conspiracy to commit murders”, she said Zaldy faces 58 counts of murder. Murder charges were dropped against Zaldy in 2010 but the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 he should be among those charged.
To read the rest, please click on this link.
While my SCMP piece centers on the Ampatuan massacre, this opinion piece is about the implications of the list of wedding sponsors on next year’s elections.
I found it alarming that two of the ninongs were Commission on Elections chairman Sheriff Abas and Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo.
Casquejo was recently appointed operations chief of the 2019 mid-term elections.
Central Mindanao, where the massacre occurred in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao, has historically been ground zero for election cheating.
The massacre was also an election-related violence.
Will the two poll officials’ relations with the Ampatuan family help them rein in cheating in that area? Or will their relations compromise their ability to stop any cheating?
Zaldy knows a lot about cheating. In 2011, Zaldy leaked an unsigned affidavit offering to turn state witness in former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s electoral sabotage case. The affidavit stated that Zaldy personally knew that Mrs Arroyo padded the votes for Miguel Zubiri so he could win as senator in 2007.
Zaldy also offered to turn state witness against his father and younger brother in the massacre case. His offers were rejected by then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Who incidentally was not allowed to take a pass from jail to attend her son’s graduation.
I know I have turned cynical when it comes to Philippine politics. All these politicians agreeing to become ninongs and ninangs of Zaldy’s daughter. My guess is, Zaldy still has something to give them. Or Zaldy knows something about them. Or friendship trumps everything.
This also gives us an inkling why the late President Ferdinand Marcos is still popular to a section of the population to this day. After 20 years in power, think of how many weddings Marcos and his wife Imelda attended as ninong and ninang.